Night of the Werewolf (1981)
Directed by Paul Naschy

Starring Azucena Hernandez Julia Saly Paul Naschy Pilar Alcon Silvia Aguilar

Hard to imagine that Paul Naschy was still making werewolf movies after "The Howling" and "An American Werewolf in London" literally transformed the genre, but this Valdemar werewolf film did make it to theaters in Europe in the early 1980s and to the U.S. (at least on video) in 1985 as "The Craving."

When I first caught the film upon its remastered DVD release, I was convinced it must have been filmed in the 1970s, given that Naschy's transformation scene has him falling behind a couch. But a closer look at the hairstyles on the young ladies confirms that, yes, this is the early 1980s.

All in all, this is a fun Naschy horror film with no shortage of grindhouse sleaze. Like a number of other Naschy films it opens in the 16th (or maybe 15th) century with an execution. Naschy plays Valdemar, who has been consorting with the devil with the help of another witch, Countess Elizabeth Bathory (Julia Saly, who also was featured in "Night of the Seagulls"). Yes, that's the same Bathory of Hammer Films' "Countess Dracula" the one who bathed in virgins' blood to appear young.

Cut to the present day. A professor owns the countess' valuable occult medallion. When one of his students (Aguilar) discovers the graves of Bathory, she kills the professor, steals the medallion, and heads off to an old castle resurrect the countess. Naturally, thanks go gravediggers that have removed a valuable sword from his corpse's heart, Valdemar is already resurrected and eventually takes the woman in along with some girlfriends before transforming into a werewolf and attacking local townsfolk, including a couple he catches making love. He runs off carrying the topless woman in his arms shocking stuff.

Slow moving, but atmospheric, the film features lower doses of sex and gore than Naschy titles like "Horror Rises From the Tomb." But the film delivers just in terms of sheer horror content: a witch trial, Elizabeth Bathory rising from her tomb to bathe in virgin blood yet again, Naschy crashing through windows in surprisingly effective (by '70s standards at least) werewolf makeup, and even a female igor-like character with a nasty scar on her face.

The film really kicks into high gear during the last act when a bout of vampirism strikes the story and Bathory's mummified brother bursts out of a tomb. Things climax with a slow-motion battle pitting the werewolf against a vampire woman, a running theme in Naschy werewolf movies (he also made "Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman").

Good stock music and a story with all the necessary Hammer elements from the 1970s do make this film feel like it came out of that decade. Hard to believe it was a post-"Howling" film.

Horror fans were likely underwhelmed when this hit videostores in 1985 as a blurry VHS tape. But it certainly deserves a second look today, especially given the high definition transfer that Victory Films gave it when they re-released it in 2007.

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-- Review by Lucius Gore

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